What’s one thing you could tell a younger Tom when you first started writing?
I got asked that question yesterday. I tried to think of some profound answer to it but all I could think of was a basic cliche..
“I would just tell him that it’s actually possible. That finding success as a writer online is actually within your wheelhouse.”
At the beginning, blogging success was hard to believe in for me. In 2016 I got inspired to be a travel blogger and went on a road trip across the United States for 5 months. I must’ve been crazy. The problem was my blog sucked and I never got any views during that time. Then I found Medium and started writing more personal stuff instead of travel guides.
Four years and hundreds of blog posts later I have almost 50,000 followers here. I’ve probably gotten close to 3,000,000 total views in the last two years, which has exceeded my wildest dreams.
I’ve learned a lot since 2016. I’ve taught hundreds of my own students, and I see a lot of the same mistakes come up again and again.
You’re likely making a few of these mistakes, too.
I wanted to mention a few for you right now..
1. Not Writing For Platforms
“You’ve been accepted into the Huffington Post.”
I still remember that day. I was driving from Phoenix to Los Angeles looking down at my email while driving. Terrible idea, I know, but it was a super long drive. I had just submitted a story to Huffington a week before and I wasn’t super bullish on my chances.
Little did I know that getting into Huffington would teach me a valuable lesson.
Two months after getting accepted, I wrote an article that went viral on their platform. It made the front page. I was ecstatic. It was a piece about introverts, and since I had a link back to my website in that piece, I got about 1,000 views that day to my site when I typically only got 10.
I realized then that platforms are such a big key to growing your audience. Whether that’s Inc, Huffington, or just straight-up Medium publications, you need to use the audience these big publications already have to grow your own following.
2. Having Ridiculously High Expectations
“I’ve only made $10 after my first month. This isn’t working. I’ve written every day for only $10? I’m going to quit!!”
Hey, you’re a donut.
3. Getting Into Toxic Facebook Groups For Writers
Along the same lines as the above point.. Many people love those toxic Facebook groups with all the newbie writers in them. Then they complain about everything together. I saw one person talking about how he believed Medium was a ponzi scheme the other day.
He went on and on complaining about how he only made $10 this month and boo hoo him.
Perhaps the worst part is that the post got a bunch of likes. Everyone was buying into the negativity. Those Facebook groups are toxic. It is doing nothing for you being in there. The truth is, you can still make thousands on Medium with sustained output over a meaningful period of time.
You don’t need anyone without the stomach to succeed bursting your bubble.
4. Not Learning The Writing Craft
I’m a publication owner and the amount of blatant grammatical/spelling errors astounds me. I know I’m not perfect, but I’m not terrible either.
For everybody else who decided they wanted to become a writer yesterday, welcome! It’s fine to use Medium as a proving ground, but you need to learn your craft while you’re at it. Two books I recommend are Bird by Bird and Elements of Style.
They should teach you all you need to know about writing. Study them painstakingly — especially Elements of Style.
5. Not Writing Good Headlines
Sorry, I’m not going to read an article titled “Sunday Morning Musings”
Nobody is. Nobody cares. Tell them what’s in it for them in your headline and they will care.
“5 Ways To Wake Up Feeling More Refreshed In The Morning”
Now you got me.
6. Not Getting The Formatting Correct
Medium likes landscape pictures as cover photos, not portrait photos. They also don’t like images that are about the size of a mouse’s pinky. That’s grainy and not fun to look at.
Get your basic formatting correct before you start having wild ambitions of being the next Stephen King.
7. Quitting After 4 1/2 Articles
It takes most writers about 100 blog posts to really hit their groove. You want to quit halfway into your fifth article because nobody is reading?
You don’t have the stomach for it. Writing is supposed to be fun, first and foremost. Writing is its own reward.
You’re likely in this for the wrong reasons if you’re quitting that quickly.
8. Not Starting An Email List
Convertkit all day. Without my email list, I’d probably be working a 9–5 job right now. That’s how important they are.
Create a small email course based on your expertise and offer that as a freebie in exchange for signing up for your list. You don’t even need to get crazy with .PDF’s or ebooks. Creating an email course should take you anywhere from 1–2 days.
9. Not Making Friends With Other Writers
I reached out to 5–6 writers back in late 2017 for a podcast I was creating. The writers I talked to then are still my friends to this day.
The amount of great insights and advice I’ve received from them have probably helped me make an extra $10,000-$20,000 online.
So there’s that.
10. Writing Stuff They’ve Already Read Before
This is the biggest one. Copying other people. Writing stuff that has already been written before.
It happens all the time, unfortunately.
I try to always start from my emotions. What am I feeling when I sit down to write today? Am I angry at a Facebook post I just read? Write about that, then, Tom.
Am I feeling nostalgic? Maybe I need to write about my journey over the last five years.
You need to start your story with YOU and YOUR EMOTIONS, not with someone else’s. You’ll never stand out if you don’t write about what’s in your heart and the lessons that mean a lot to you. That’s probably my best piece of writing advice I can give.
Get a few free writing tips from me here.